Local veterans in Sioux City got to tell their stories for a special project that will preserve them at the Library of Congress.
Bill Lyle was one of around one dozen veterans who shared their story during recording at the 185th Air National Guard base Friday. Lyle was 18 when he and eight of his friends joined the Army at the end of World War Two and ended up in the occupation forces in Japan in 1946.
“It took us four weeks to get to Japan. What they would do is zig-zag kind of to avoid any of the underwater bombs and things like that,” Lyle says. “When I got over there I was the first one taken off the ship. I couldn’t figure out why, but they said your records show that you are the best typist — and so I got a really good job.”
Lyle says being 18 and in a foreign country made him a little nervous, but they were surprised by the reception they got from the Japanese. “They actually treated us really well. We’d walk out on the sidewalk and they would get off the sidewalk and bow to us when we got there. We didn’t even carry a gun after a couple three weeks we were there — because it wasn’t dangerous,” Lyle says.
Former 185th commander Brigadier General Larry Christensen brought his stepfather in to share his story of serving in Viet Nam starting in 1968. He says those veterans had to do a lot without the modern technology of computers.
“Everything was slide rules, writing it up by hand, there was nothing as far as technology,” Christensen says. “They had to do it thinking on their feet, and that’s how a lot of things got done back then. We are very thankful for what they did back then because all of us now are actually standing on their shoulders — because what they built is what you see around us today.”
General Christensen says it is good to get a record of the veteran’s experiences.
He says the veterans have stories they probably have never told anyone and when you hear those stories he says they could probably be best sellers. “A lot of the people don’t understand what they did at that time. The hardships they were up against and the courage and the bravery they had to get through everything that they did,” Christensen says.
Each of the soldiers will also get a photo on the Library of Congress website along with their story. This is the fourth year the interviews have been held for the Veterans History Project.
The project was coordinated through Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s office.
(By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)